The $16 Taco

This reading is very interesting point of view of the ethnic and geography of food. The fact that all over the U.S people are turning their backs to traditional fine dining in favor of casual food experiences seems like a good thing but it kind of takes away from the importance of things. This book shows how food can emplace and displace immigrants, this can be related back to the “Chicken” reading and what happened to the immigrants and how they were treated. Another thing I found interesting to read about is the “cosmopolitanization” which is an ‘non-linear, dialectical process in which the universal and particular, the similar and the dissimilar, the global and the local are to be conceived not as cultural polarities, but as interconnected and reciprocally interpenetrating principles’ that is happening in the big cities but also the smaller surrounding cities.

Week 13 Blog Post- The $16 Taco

I thought this reading was super interesting, because I had never thought much about gentrification when choosing a place to eat. Gastrodevelopment brings in tourism and money, but it often comes at a high cost for locals and longtime residents. The Barefoot Bohemian made me mad, because she was trying to bring in a fruteria, of which there were already four in Barrio Logan that were Mexican-owned. She was using empty buzzwords to try and garner support for her business model, but thankfully she was called out by the locals for her tone-deaf promises and the project was shut down within days of its launch. The author highlighted the disconnect between authenticity and ethnicity, and how authenticity on Yelp is often judged by decor and presentation rather than the food and its relation to the food cooked by people’s ancestors. Yelp also harbors people’s racist and classist biases, where reviewers comment that in order to eat “authentic” food one must navigate through a “sketchy neighborhood.” One of the Yelp reviews used the astute observation that many people who looked Thai were customers to justify its authenticity, and the author asked if the authenticity would be lost once locals could no longer afford to eat there. I thought that question really cut to the core issue of gentrification, behind the racism and classism. Gentrification has the ability to bring money into neighborhoods, but it also has the ability to displace longtime residents from their homes. Rapidly increasing prices make neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan unaffordable for not only for low-income residents, but also for ethnic businesses who can no longer pay rent. The same pattern is seen with the gentefication in Boyle Heights and other similar neighborhoods in Chicago and San Diego. The reviews also support the author’s idea that gentrification is often used to make neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan and City Heights more palatable to middle and upper class pockets. In nearby Mission Hills, developers brought in a weekly farmers’ market crowd, only to shut it down completely after a year once all the luxury condos had sold. The goal behind opening up businesses like La Gracias is not to enrich these neighborhoods, but instead to enrich the pockets of developers and upper class citizens. This is racial capitalism, and it erases ethnic foodscapes, replacing them with whitewashed cosmopolitan versions of what was once there.

The $16 Taco Blog Post

In the introduction to The $16 Taco, Joassart-Marcelli “explores the role of food in the transformation of urban neighborhoods, with a particular focus on the experience of immigrants who live there, running businesses, feeding families, building communities, and creating homes.” She talks about different perspectives that are introduced, like the “from above” perspectives of privileged individuals who see places like Barrio Logan as in need of outride improvements. The other point of view is the “from below” approach where individuals view ethnic food as representative of their culture. Communities where ethnic food play a large role are pockets of culture that extends only to this community, and others are attempting to “better” their food culture by “cosmopolitanizing” them with more American foods and higher prices. In chapter 5, she goes on to talk about how the communities are expanding and why. Privileged white people have an interest in the authentic foods of communities like Barrio Logan and they have become destinations for “foodies” seeking healthy and unique dining opportunities. Private-public partnerships attempt to prioritize the growth and stability of food organizations, but some are more effective than others. The cosmopolitan foodscape would not be structured the way that it is today without immigrants and the food communities created by them. However, the needs of the immigrants themselves are often not prioritized in this effort to expand the scope of ethnic food. Small business owners and low-income families are not as much a part of the cosmopolitan foodscape as they should be, as the food comes from their community. Then, in chapter 6, the gentrification and appropriation of cultures is brought into the picture. The experience of Jenny Niezgoda is a prime example, as she attempted to bring her her fruteria, La Gracia, into Barrio Logan with the intention of providing an addition to the community that brought people closer to each other and offers options made from healthy Mexican produce. She is an example because of the expensive prices in her fruteria and her exploitation of the culture she was inserting herself into in Barrio Logan. People like this fail to acknowledge that the prices do not assist low-income families and their appropriation of culture for the sake of profit is quite exploitative. She saw this as an attempt to improve a neighborhood, and others share this opinion. However, Niezgoda and people like her share a disregard for the communities that they want to infiltrate. Americanized versions of the local businesses have begun to erase the communities and the food they create. It is baffling that “foodies” place so much value in authenticity, but gentrification and erasure are ensuring that authenticity is difficult to find and appreciate while still being beneficial to the community. In chapter 7, Joassart-Marcelli highlights the conflict between helping the community by embracing traditions or inviting the business of outsiders. Regulars of the community help small business, but so does advertisement and inclusivity, though the united motive is to help the neighborhood improve and expand authentically. There is always the issue with tradition and changing society, because inclusivity needs to have its place. This chapter also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the culture surrounding food as well as making sure all members of the community have food. The problems are rooted in racism and capitalism alike. The whitewashing of ethnic food disregards the needs of the community entirely by raising prices and creating business that are more financially successful. Consumers and business owners both play a role in this as neither acknowledge the differences in racial lenses. The call to action by Joassart-Marcelli provides the idea that buying local food and supporting ethic food economies is important, and these communities have rich histories and are not in need of “saving” by white consumers and business owners.

$16 Taco

I thought this reading was a great way to wind down the semester. It had a combination of themes from several readings we’ve discussed over the past few weeks. In the introduction, the author talked about ethnic food in big cities like San Diego, but these concepts they introduced are rampant across the nation. The author brought up the idea of gentrification and connected the idea to ethnic food in the city. The author brought up a coffee shop in East LA that combats food gentrification and fascism with quirky quotes and signs. The second concept they brought up was the idea of cosmopolitanism, which is the idea that stuff like food does not belong to any single person or ethnic group, but this food should be shared and celebrated by all. The author’s last main theme in the introduction was the breakdown of the word “ethnic”. The Author called it an oversimplification of the idea and the word sometimes comes with negative astigmatism behind it. 

The fifth chapter was super interesting to read. The author starts by talking about how foodies will target “up and coming” restaurants in “bad areas” to review and talk about. A lot of times their reviews will include the negative connotation of the neighborhood along with the food. They then talked about how there is more of a positive image around urban life than it used to be due to “urban coalitions”. They talked about the idea of “gastro-development” which is the idea that cities use their famous foods to draw in foodies and the creative class to increase profits and tourism. The sixth chapter talked about the “taste of gentrification”. In this chapter, the author talked about how gentrification is affecting the food market and ethnic restaurants. The idea of gentrification is both good and bad for urban life because in some ways it revives a city, but in other ways, it alienates the city’s lower-class residents and backbone. She calls the use of gentrification racial capitalism, which has investors and the upper class preying on ghettos and old urban neighborhoods. The last chapter talks about the public reclaiming the ethnic food space which I thought was really cool. They talk about how the most successful restaurants in the city are ones that embody an ethnic and authentic aesthetic. The author goes on to talk about the idea of white privilege, which has people basically being whitewashed with an inability to turn off their color blinders. They bring up the idea that they use ethnic foods to prey on profits like selling a 16$ taco. Overall, I thought this reading was pretty cool and really brought together a bunch of ideas.

$16 taco blog post

Another enjoyable read for me, and I liked how this reading seemed to tie together a couple of the other readings and topics we have discussed before. Throughout the introduction, the author highlights many ideas that were unfolding in many cities and neighborhoods across the U.S. around the time the author was conducting this research. Many people were seeing gentrification of “up and coming” neighborhoods, which some called an extension of colonialism. The big idea that he talks about is cosmopolitanism, the seeming growing openness to cultural openness. But of course as with everything there are some nuances to that idea especially when it comes to the food scene of these neighborhoods with traditionally immigrant populations. Many want to resist this while upper class, white people want to “discover” these locations. I really enjoyed how the author described how he studies both ethnic and cosmopolitan food and figures out where all of those fit into places. Chapter 5 focusses on gastrodevelopment and the urban machine and how these two ideas coincide and sometimes further one another. Before the development of a food scene in the areas such as Bario Logan, all of the articles written about the area were focused on the crime, gang violence, and homelessness and not much else. But today the narrative in these neighborhoods is far different. These are destinations that as the author puts it “best for foodies” and they no longer have the negative view around them. They put this title around these locations so that it would attract more visitors, who were mainly affluent, educated, white people. As cities have changed drastically and rapidly, food has proved to be an important commodity because it is more than just something that keeps us going, it is a way to distinguish from one another and a vibrant food scene provides the place for this. But the role it plays in cities isn’t for food justice or for the betterment of any food justice issues, it is to simply further a cities development. But to develop these cities it takes investment at all levels. On a smaller level, but incredibly important one, is local governments. This level is completely in control of what goes where, land uses, granting permits, among other things. These local governments have also been trying to attract the “creative class” and what does this group want? Vibrant, fun places to eat the and many choices of them. But when the city plans to accomplish these goals are limited by funds that’s when third parties step in. The author describes the ultimate public-private partnerships with cities and public benefit organizations. These organizations have a lot of influence in shaping these neighborhoods but because their funding is lower and less stable, they do not have the capacity for long term change. The example of North Park is one that we see in many neighborhoods across the U.S. where this funding worked and many white affluent residents moved in. However, now the area is unaffordable to longterm residents. And now these areas are no longer discouraged for tourists to go to, they are in fact encouraged to explore unique, local experiences. Local media of course also has an important role through articles in lifestyle and travel magazines. Reviews are also online, but all of them preach the same ideas of diversity and authenticity in the food scene in San Diego. These online reviews can even have a much bigger impact because they are updated constantly and show up on “best of” lists. Among the reviews there becomes this association that in order to experiment true “ethnic” food one must eat in one of these neighborhoods, even though there are numerous restaurants in the San Diego area serving similar foods. Real estate is another important component that the author discusses. When developers create these mixed use plans there are restaurants, markets, and activities incorporated into them that after a few years are removed for more co-working spaces or parking for residents. And of course all of the activities are member exclusive. All of the sections the author discusses I found extremely important to understand the concept of urban development and along with it the food scene because they are so deeply intertwined. Chapter 6 focusses on the gentrification of San Diego. Since the 1980’s, almost all of these once low income neighborhoods have seen an increase in median income, housing prices, and percentage of white people. The reason that this gentrification works in investors favors is because the rely on racial capitalism in order to drive down prices in the neighborhoods and then exploit that to then “reinvent” the neighborhoods. Everything that happens to gentrify a neighborhood is in relation to race, to chase out the working class minorities to make room for affluent white people. Taste has an important part in this too, because the restaurants in the area have to match the taste of the white newcomers. The section on yelp reviews was interesting because it gives a sort of first hand look at what outsiders to these neighborhoods really think. The overall thing was that they loved to food but the area was too “sketchy” or “dangerous” to come back. But some people that reviewed thought of themselves as helping the neighborhoods that “need some TLC”. But this proves that people who come here to eat are ignoring the real issues that are found in these neighborhoods. And all of this gentrification, etc. is displacing residents who have lived here for years and now that cannot even afford their homes. But its not just the people who are displaced its businesses, community gardens, and soup kitchens, things that residents rely on. The ideas of food sovereignty in the last chapter wrap all of these ideas up. Because when gentrification happens the people that are investing in the areas think they are helping, but the people in these areas only want is to be able to bring their neighborhood up and support them selves. I think that this speaks to a lot of what the author was talking about. People who come into these areas are more focused on finding the new, cool, authentic places but do not stop to consider what could benefit the neighborhood. Instead these primarily white people are creating a neighborhood that will attract more white affluent people and eventually, sometimes unintentionally, make the neighborhood inaccessible to those that were there first.   

Blog Post $16 Taco 4/3/2022

The author’s main point of identifying how the rapidly changing food culture within America is having both positive and negative repercussions on these neighborhoods & communities was quite the fascinating read. The recent explosive trend in American and even national interests in the more traditional cuisine is something that even I have been a part of due to interest in food as a whole. So it was not all surprising to see just how popular many of these local, ethnic communities restaurants and eateries have become, however I was surprised to learn about the recent gentrification problems that have started cropping up regularly. The first example the author discusses of which was the area known as Barrio Logan located in San Diego, and during which she discusses how most Americans have had a negative view on this area, and that recently a select few “educated foodies” had begun to extensively map and document all of the restaurants, culture icons (murals), and shops within these neighborhoods which has lead to a substantial increase in foot traffic through this area. The causal effects of this would be a larger, steadier influx of tourism to the area which would positively benefit the local shops, and restaurants as she documents, however as the public eye has now shifted towards these neighborhoods many larger corporations or individuals who act either under false assumptions or purely economic greed are attempting to move their businesses into said neighborhoods which has prompted community backlash. This backlash and the protests that went along with it were quite understandable as most of these ethnic communities had been operating under purely under their own community driven businesses and had developed their own sub-cultures within them, and the movement of larger corporations into said neighborhoods would only disrupt the communities and their businesses leading to economic problems for the local stores. The concepts behind monetizing and advertising food and the communities that they represent is an effective way to counter the decades of negative stigma associated with many of these distinct ethnic neighborhoods. This trend towards marketing these neighborhoods towards “foodies” is something that does have a pretty distinct downside which goes in hand with the new influx of tourist, travelers, and possible residents to these neighborhoods which is the “gentrification” of said locale. The first major issue that I had thought of long before reading it on page 140 was that with the influx of money to these neighborhoods either from their local governing body or even due to the newfound tourism, many of the homes, apartments, and offices that these long-time residents have owned have become too expensive in regards to rent or taxes which means most of them will have to leave their homes to cheaper neighborhoods if there even are alternatives locally. This revitalized focus on these communities has also given rise to many community driven organizations whom’s focus is on the local restaurants, food trucks, and other such businesses in order to ensure their continued survival amidst the current economic trends afflicting their communities. The other issues in regards to gentrification is the influx of what I would consider “haute cuisine” which would include coffee shops, high scale fruit shops, and high end taco shops, which not only takes the culture out of the food being sold by the long time community restaurants but it also promotes the travel of tourists, residents, and organizations who’s beliefs run counter to that of the neighborhoods long time residents which in turn breeds conflict. While I too am amongst those “Foodies” who are fascinated with the foods being discussed in this article I am now well aware of how their new economic trend can negatively affect the communities I wish to visit which is something I wouldn’t have ever thought about till now.

“Eating Tomorrow”

“In a country with more than half the rural residents in poverty, they wanted to eat today. And they wanted to restore their soil so they could eat tomorrow.” (pg 10)

“The designation ‘green revolution’ came from its offer of an economic antidote to ‘red revolutions,’ not from being environmentally friendly.” (pg 12) This shocked me! I had no idea– we talk about greenwashing all the time but I didn’t know the origins of the “green” movement.

The first half of the reading was brand new information for me. I don’t know a lot about GMO crops beyond the fact that they cause resistant pests and diseases and upset biodiversity in the fields and surrounding land. It was really eye-opening to learn that using fertilizer-dependent crops actually makes it harder to maintain soil integrity.

I’m also studying permaculture this semester, so it was really encouraging to read that there are movements for native varieties of corn and more holistic methods of intercropping and natural fertilizers and other enrichments of the soil. I especially think the parts that talked about the importance of irrigation were significant, because much of the agricultural areas Africa have been undergoing desertification due to these poor soil maintenance practices. Using intercropping and natural fertilizers can help reverse that process. I really hope more governments encourage those practices with subsidies and grants– but it looks like as long as GMO corps have a hold on the region that won’t happen.

Concerning the second half of the reading, I also knew that there had been lawsuits from Monsanto about farmers that accidentally cross-bred their crops with patented seeds because their fields were too close and were naturally cross-pollinated. But I didn’t really get the extent to which this happened, or how insidious it was.

“We need complex solutions to complex problems.” (pg 195)

GMOs really have messed with the genetics of native varieties of maize way too much. One or two genes of a plant designed for midwestern United States conditions are not going to thrive or results in good conditions/outcomes in a central Mexico environment. Or if they do, they threaten the integrity of every other vartiety of corn that grows anywhere near it. It’s a natural process– if you have pollinators in the area, they’ll go from field to field without caring about the genetics of the plants they pollinate. But as discussed in the previous chapter, many GMO plants are not designed to last more than a season or two without specific conditions, so they don’t reseed or regenerate at the same rate, meaning the integrity and outcomes of a native farmer’s crop is compromised.

More than seeds, the soil needs to be fixed. It needs to be naturally amended in a sustainable, long-term manner that increases soil biodiversity and structure to enrich the crops grown on it and support farmers for the foreseeable future, not just season to season struggles.

Week 12 Blog Post- Eating Tomorrow

Throughout the reading, I thought it was interesting that the answer to many of the problems in Malawi were to revert to localized solutions. Malawi was facing a huge food crisis, and it was temporarily fixed by subsidizing seeds and fertilizers to support small-scale farmers. Eventually, the problems related to this model became apparent and needed to be resolved. Farmers often had little to no cash, so convincing farmers to splurge on seeds at the beginning of the season was a hard sell. Fertilizers are also very expensive, and the combined cost of seeds and synthetic fertilizer results in a net loss for farmers, who cannot afford to lose their income and their food source. The solution to this was reverting back to local seeds, such as orange maize, which is higher in vitamin A, resistant to pests and diseases when stored, and it has a broader range of uses for food production. Local seeds also brought farmers back to the traditions of intercropping and seed-saving, which are more natural and time-tested ways to survive as a farmer. I related to the section about monoculture, because corn grown in a monoculture model really does deplete soil. When my family started planting on our farm, it had been under corn for 30 years. It was very dry, compact soil, and we are still working on loosening it up and adding nutrients back with regenerative agriculture practices. That is what people like Daudi are trying to prevent- dependence on monoculture leading to the depletion of the soil that spurs increased dependence on fertilizers every year. The issue with seed companies in Malawi was very similar to the issue with genetically modified corn in Mexico. GM corn is being pushed by companies like Monsanto in Mexico, and the transgenic corn is cross-pollinating with traditional maize crops. This has angered many in Mexico, and there has been a large movement to try and stop the production of GM maize crops in Mexico. The GM crops have essentially no benefits in Mexico- farmers already see high yield rates and the prices for GM seeds are higher. Even Monsanto’s data shows that traditional maize crops are more beneficial for farmers, yet the company promotes their seeds as a step towards food sovereignty. Monsanto is the antithesis of food sovereignty, because the company has been trying to use its power to limit the prevention of the contamination of native maize varieties and essentially eliminate Mexicans’ choice in what they grow. I thought that Monsanto’s false advertising was very representative of commercial agriculture, because they claim to work in the best interests of the people, but in reality they are solely working to line corporate pockets. Similar to Malawi, the solution in Mexico is to uplift the peasant farmers. ANEC’s “Peasant Agriculture with Integrated Knowledge Systems” is designed to uplift peasant farmers by combining scientific and agricultural knowledge and using the collective information to eliminate the reliance on transnational firms like Monsanto.

Week 12 Blog Post

This week’s reading, Timothy A. Wise’s Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, delves into the problems with feeding the world and how different countries across the globe are addressing these issues, typically with the presence of powerful agribusinesses that take advantage of poor workers and utilize poor farming practices and food policies through environmentally damaging GMOs and fertilizers. One of the core concepts that Wise presents is the conflict between the GMO-led “climate-stupid agriculture” of large agricultural corporations and the sustainable, eco-friendly agriculture of small-scale farmers in Africa that Wise believes should be leading the way when it comes to the future of agriculture. Clearly there is an imbalance in priorities between the profit-hungry agribusinesses that largely dominate the agricultural world and are solely focused on making money quickly, and the small-scale farmers that are victims of the negative effects climate change and are trying to grow food not only for today, but also for tomorrow. Not only is there an imbalance in priorities, but there is also an imbalance in power, and it is apparent that aspects of racism and the “White Man’s Burden” mentality are ingrained this conflict. Wise seems to assert that there is an element of Americans not only thinking they need to solve the problems of starvation and poverty in Africa, but also that they easily can, mostly through funding African governments to use harmful GMOs and fertilizers, instead of attempting to address structural issues with more permanent and eco-friendly solutions. However, the author also discusses the fact that it is not possible for these small-scale farms to be completely self-reliant and some sort of cooperation is necessary for long-term results and overall successful and environmentally friendly farming. Wise later discusses the issue of genetically modified (GM) corn in Mexico. In 2009, several multinational agro-chemical companies pressured the Mexican government into allowing them to commercially produce GM corn, infuriating several individuals and organizations who believed GM corn should be banned as the gene flow from GM corn would inevitably transfer to native corn and potentially ruin the diversity of maize in Mexico. Throughout the chapter, Wise describes the huge importance of the maintenance of maize diversity for small Mexican farmers to continue to produce their maize and make a living, which is why many activists and protestors have tried to stick up against the big agro-corporations attempting to tarnish that with GM corn. Maize is a cornerstone of the typical Mexican diet, especially that of the underprivileged, and lack of diversity of maize caused by the presence of GM corn could lead to less availability of maize across the country. Essentially, this presence of GM corn in Mexico being pushed by these large agro-chemical corporations is a direct attack on food sovereignty and food security for the Mexican people. Overall, it is clear that these large multinational agribusinesses and corporations have a lot of power in today’s agricultural landscape, but small scale farmers are doing their best to continue to farm the right way and fight against these inconsiderate and dangerous corporations, leading the way for the future of agriculture.

“Eating Tomorrow”

I found that the introduction really hooks you in as a reader for example the in depth about the city of Mozambique’s and their temperatures and agricultural situation just due to these conditions. From our point of views you wonder how they are going to grow any crops in this climate in South Africa but “The women who lead Marracuene’s 7,000-member farmer associations seemed undaunted. They had their own climate adap­tation strategies, and those did not involve using more fossil fuels or growing monocultures of commercial seeds. They had improved their own preferred vitamin-rich, drought-tolerant maize variety.” This shows how many places have to strategize and work harder to be able to provide for their towns and their own families. On the other hand they have to be okay with eating the plants that do grow in these conditions. I think this part of the introduction was interesting to me because it was mainly ran by women! The fact that they are getting no resources/help from the government addressing climate conditions and global warming. Just looking at how much work they do and they are being encouraged to basically change their whole family farming after doing this for so long to use genetically modified items and shows how different developing world countries are compared to the US. The fact that the government isn’t addressing global warming but trying to force these small farming families to be controlled by the government.

Throughout the rest of the reading such as the agribusiness deception how it is a “win-win” but in reality there is only one true winner which is the agribusiness that dominates the seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs which is interesting because in reality these family farmers have no control but they have so much power into making these policy-makers that they are completely all for the agriculture businesses but they want maximum production and then that forces farmer prices to go lower. Overall there is only one winner in these situations.

Overall this reading was very eye-opening diving into the family farmers around the world, and the deception that what needs to be talked about relating to the future food and the large corporations trying to make every penny they can even if it hurts these family farmers.